Sapphire Pure Platinum Z68 (Intel Z68) Motherboard Review

Sapphire expands their motherboard line-up with the Pure Platinum Z68. Let's check it out and see what's happening.
| Sep 9, 2011 at 10:58 am CDT
Rating: 79%Manufacturer: Sapphire

Introduction and Package

Introduction
VIEW GALLERY - 36 IMAGES

We've looked at a lot of motherboards lately and the chances are if you're reading this, you know we're going to be looking at another one that carries with it the much loved Z68 chipset that launched a little back.

The board we're looking at today comes from the team over at Sapphire and let's be honest, they've been a little hit and miss when it comes to motherboards. The original X58 we looked at from the company was great, the P67 on the other hand not so much. The A75 was awesome and showed us some amazing overclocking capabilities.

So if we go off the trend that we've been seeing from Sapphire since the re-launch of their motherboards, the Z68 won't be quite the shining light that we hope. But we always hope to go against the trend and Sapphire are a little later to the market when compared to other companies, so hopefully they've done a good job with the board that will let it shine in a market that is flooded with great Z68 options already.

Before we find out just how it went on the performance side of things, though, there are a few things we need to do first. We need to see what's going on with the package, once that's done we'll take a closer look at the motherboard itself before we jump into the BIOS to see what's going on there.

Once that's done, we'll get into our testbed and cover the overclocking side of things before we get into the most important stuff - performance. Before we get into that and wrap everything up, we need to first check out the package.

The Package

Sapphire Pure Platinum Z68 (Intel Z68) Motherboard Review 03 | TweakTown.com
Sapphire Pure Platinum Z68 (Intel Z68) Motherboard Review 04 | TweakTown.com

Looking at the box design, we can see it's very similar to previous Sapphire boards we've looked at. It's a pretty funky black / reflective silver setup. The back of it also gives us a run down on some of the main features that are offered and the whole "PURE" thing is explained too.

Sapphire Pure Platinum Z68 (Intel Z68) Motherboard Review 05 | TweakTown.com

Moving inside the package, it's all pretty bare. We've got a Quick Installation Guide, Driver CD, I/O back plate and six SATA cables.

The Motherboard

The Motherboard

Looking at the board, the overall design of it is very similar to that of the other Sapphire boards we've looked at. We've got a black / blue color scheme going on and we can see the Pure Platinum Z68 branding in the bottom right corner. Looking at the board from over the top, there's nothing really that stands out massively, so let's move in closer and have a look at what's going on.

Sapphire Pure Platinum Z68 (Intel Z68) Motherboard Review 06 | TweakTown.com
Sapphire Pure Platinum Z68 (Intel Z68) Motherboard Review 07 | TweakTown.com

Moving closer into the board, you can see we've got an even split with 3x Legacy PCI slots and 3x PCIe x16 slots. The PCIe setup is just as you'd expect; the top slot is x16 but if the two blue slots are used, they will run at x8. As for the bottom most slot which is grey, that runs at x4.

This setup is a little bit of a weird one to be honest. We've got way too many Legacy PCI slots. Personally, I think boards should be moving away from having any, but to have three just seems kind of ridiculous. The lack of any PCIe x1 slots is also annoying as it means you have to use the x16 slots if you want to make use of other PCIe cards.

Sapphire Pure Platinum Z68 (Intel Z68) Motherboard Review 08 | TweakTown.com

Moving to the bottom of the board, we've got a Molex power connector used to help provide extra power to the video cards. Continuing to move over, we've got a clear CMOS button, reset button and power button. Next to that we've got a little switch that lets you switch between two BIOSs that are installed. Following that, we've got four USB 2.0 headers, while above that we've got our LED debug meter and finally we've got our front panel header.

Sapphire Pure Platinum Z68 (Intel Z68) Motherboard Review 09 | TweakTown.com

Turning the corner, we've got a total of four SATA ports; the black ones are SATA II and run off the Z68 chipset, the red ones are SATA III and the two bunched together with the four SATA II ports also run off the Z68 chipset. As for the other two SATA III ports, they run off the Marvel 9172 controller.

The Motherboard Continued

The Motherboard Continued

Moving to the top of the board we haven't got heaps going on with our normal 24-Pin ATX power connector. Next to that, we can also see our BIOS battery and next to that you can see we've got a fan header.

Sapphire Pure Platinum Z68 (Intel Z68) Motherboard Review 10 | TweakTown.com

As for the RAM slots, we've got our typical four that support up to 16GB of DDR3 ranging from speeds of 800MHz to 1600MHz+. Higher RAM speeds are supported, but it's a little weird that Sapphire doesn't officially say that in their specifications.

Sapphire Pure Platinum Z68 (Intel Z68) Motherboard Review 11 | TweakTown.com
Sapphire Pure Platinum Z68 (Intel Z68) Motherboard Review 12 | TweakTown.com

Moving around to the CPU area, you can see our 8-Pin power connector and around the actual CPU area itself you can see it's extremely bare and flat. You can also see the little heatsink that Sapphire has got going on. It's nothing too spectacular, but indeed looks like it will do the job.

Sapphire Pure Platinum Z68 (Intel Z68) Motherboard Review 13 | TweakTown.com

Moving to the I/O side of things, we've got a combo PS/2 port, four USB 2.0 headers and our Bluetooth receiver running off the Atheros AR3011 controller. Moving over, we've got an optical port which runs off the Realtek ALC892 codec and next to that we've got four video out connectors including HDMI, DisplayPort, VGA and DVI-D.

We've also got a single gigabit networking port that runs off the Marvell 88E8057 controller and below that we've got two USB 3.0 ports that run off the ASMedia controller. Finally, we've got our six analogue connectors which run off the Realtek ALC892 codec which also controls the optical port.

BIOS

BIOS

Getting into the BIOS, we've got the horrible American Megatrends version which I have to emphasize, is really horrible. I've never been a fan of it and it seems even worse since we've seen companies make a push for these graphical UEFI designs, even more so with companies like ASRock and MSI choosing to tweak the look of it lately.

Sapphire Pure Platinum Z68 (Intel Z68) Motherboard Review 14 | TweakTown.com
Sapphire Pure Platinum Z68 (Intel Z68) Motherboard Review 15 | TweakTown.com
Sapphire Pure Platinum Z68 (Intel Z68) Motherboard Review 16 | TweakTown.com
Sapphire Pure Platinum Z68 (Intel Z68) Motherboard Review 17 | TweakTown.com
Sapphire Pure Platinum Z68 (Intel Z68) Motherboard Review 18 | TweakTown.com
Sapphire Pure Platinum Z68 (Intel Z68) Motherboard Review 19 | TweakTown.com
Sapphire Pure Platinum Z68 (Intel Z68) Motherboard Review 20 | TweakTown.com

All the normal options are there and if you're going to overclock you'll be in the Performance section the most. While we continue to understand that Sapphire are still new to the higher performance motherboards, we're seeing more and more companies upgrade their UEFI interface and it doesn't seem that Sapphire are really moving in that direction.

Hopefully over time we'll see them work more and more on the BIOS side of things, because it's an important area when it comes to testing a board and it's indeed something that needs to be concentrated on a bit more.

Test System Setup and Overclocking

Sapphire Pure Platinum Z68 (Intel Z68) Motherboard Review 99 | TweakTown.com

We would like to thank the following companies for supplying and supporting us with our test system hardware and equipment: Intel, ASUS, MSI, Western Digital and Corsair.

We won't cover the testbed because the information can be seen above, and as for the boards we'll have in our graphs today, you'll be able to see them in the graphs themselves. Instead we'll just get into the overclocking side of things before we get into the performance of the board.

Initially I found myself running into a bit of a problem when it came to overclocking. The way you have to overclock on the board is by enabling turbo and then manually setting the multiplier for each core. The problem I had was when I enabled turbo I kept getting an error. Pressing Enter a bunch of times and some patience got it done and talking to Sapphire, they couldn't replicate the issue.

Eventually I got everything up and running, though, and we ended up in Windows at 4.8GHz as you can see below in the screenshot.

Sapphire Pure Platinum Z68 (Intel Z68) Motherboard Review 01 | TweakTown.com

As an overclock from the stock 3.4GHz, this isn't bad, but on a whole when it comes to overclocking on a Z68 board, it's actually the worst we've had to date. We know there's another 600MHz in the CPU with 5.1GHz being that common area for most boards, but you can see we do really fall a good chunk away from that.

Anyway, it is what it is and we'll just get into the benchmarking side of things to see what's going on.

Let's get started!

CPU Benchmarks

HyperPi 0.99

Version and / or Patch Used: 0.99

Developer Homepage: www.virgilioborges.com.br

Product Homepage: www.virgilioborges.com.br

Download It Here

HyperPi is a front end for SuperPi that allows for multiple concurrent instances of SuperPi to be run on each core recognized by the system. It is very dependent on CPU to memory to HDD speed. The faster these components, the faster it is able to figure out the number Pi to the selected length.

For our testing we use the 32M run. This means that each of the four physical and four logical cores for the i7 and the four physical cores of the i5 is trying to calculate the number Pi out to 32 million decimal places. Each "run" is a comparative to ensure accuracy and any stability or performance issues in the loop mentioned above will cause errors in calculation.

Sapphire Pure Platinum Z68 (Intel Z68) Motherboard Review 30 | TweakTown.com

AIDA64

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.00.1035BETA

Developer Homepage: http://www.aida64.com

Product Homepage: http://www.AIDA64.com

Buy It Here

Replacing Everest in our labs is AIDA64. This new testing suite is from the core development team from Lavalys and continues that tradition. The guys have thrown in better support for multithreaded CPUs as well as full 64 bit support. We use this to test memory and HDDs for now, but may find ourselves opening this up to other areas of the motherboard.

Sapphire Pure Platinum Z68 (Intel Z68) Motherboard Review 31 | TweakTown.com
Sapphire Pure Platinum Z68 (Intel Z68) Motherboard Review 32 | TweakTown.com

At stock we can see that performance under HyperPi is a little off compared to our other boards, while under AIDA64 we can see that it's a little stronger. On the overclocking side of things we of course see a nice gain in performance, but because our overall overclock is a good chunk lower than what we've seen from our other boards, our HyperPi score isn't the most impressive.

System Benchmarks

PCMark 7

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.04

Developer Homepage: http://www.pcmark.com

Product Homepage: http://www.pcmark.com

Buy It Here

PCMark 7 includes a range of tests that give different views of your system's performance. In the Advanced Edition you can choose which tests to run. The common use and hardware component tests are unavailable in the Basic Edition.

Overall system performance is measured by the PCMark test. This is the only test that returns an official PCMark score. The Lightweight test measures the system capabilities of entry-level systems and mobility platforms unable to run the PCMark test, but it does not generate a PCMark score. Common use performance is measured by the scenario tests - Entertainment, Creativity and Production - each of which results in a scenario score. Hardware component performance is measured by the hardware tests - Computation and Storage - each of which results in a hardware score.

Sapphire Pure Platinum Z68 (Intel Z68) Motherboard Review 33 | TweakTown.com

MediaEspresso

Version and / or Patch Used: 6.5

Developer Homepage: http://www.cyberlink.com/

Product Homepage: http://www.cyberlink.com/products/mediaespresso/overview_en_AU.html?fileName=overview&r=1

Buy It Here

MediaEspresso is a blazingly fast media universal converter that can transcode your videos, photos and music files and out put them to a huge range of portable devices including mobile phones, portable media players and even game consoles. With technologies like Smart Detect, Direct Sync and CyberLink's TrueTheater™ video enhancements, you can not only forget about complicated format, resolution and output settings, but your converted file will come out the other side looking better than when it went in!

Sapphire Pure Platinum Z68 (Intel Z68) Motherboard Review 34 | TweakTown.com

Unlike our CPU tests we can see at stock the Sapphire Pure Platinum Z68 performs in line with our other boards. Overclocked we can again see a nice performance increase, but again compared to some of our other boards when overclocked, the overall scores to sit back a little.

USB 2.0 and 3.0 Benchmarks

AIDA64

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.70.1400

Developer Homepage: http://www.aida64.com

Product Homepage: http://www.AIDA64.com

Buy It Here

Replacing Everest in our labs is AIDA64. This new testing suite is from the core development team from Lavalys and continues that tradition. The guys have thrown in better support for multithreaded CPUs as well as full 64 bit support. We use this to test memory and HDDs for now, but may find ourselves opening this up to other areas of the motherboard.

Sapphire Pure Platinum Z68 (Intel Z68) Motherboard Review 35 | TweakTown.com
Sapphire Pure Platinum Z68 (Intel Z68) Motherboard Review 36 | TweakTown.com

Checking out USB performance, we can see that USB 3.0 performance lines up just as you'd expect with our other boards. USB 2.0 performance is very strong with only the G1.Sniper2 coming out ahead and the ASRock offering which uses XFast technology.

SSD Benchmarks

AIDA64

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.70.1400

Developer Homepage: http://www.aida64.com

Product Homepage: http://www.AIDA64.com

Buy It Here

Replacing Everest in our labs is AIDA64. This new testing suite is from the core development team from Lavalys and continues that tradition. The guys have thrown in better support for multithreaded CPUs as well as full 64 bit support. We use this to test memory and HDDs for now, but may find ourselves opening this up to other areas of the motherboard.

Sapphire Pure Platinum Z68 (Intel Z68) Motherboard Review 37 | TweakTown.com

HD Tune Pro

Version and / or Patch Used: 4.61

Developer Homepage: http://www.hdtune.com

Product Homepage: http://www.hdtune.com

Buy It Here

HD Tune Pro gives us accurate read, write and access time results and for the last couple of years has been gaining popularity amongst reviewers. It is now considered a must have application for storage device testing.

Sapphire Pure Platinum Z68 (Intel Z68) Motherboard Review 38 | TweakTown.com

SATA III SSD performance on the board is amazing. You can see that across the board in HD Tune Pro and AIDA64 that the performance stands out extremely well against everything else we've got here.

Memory Benchmarks

AIDA64

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.00.1035BETA

Developer Homepage: http://www.aida64.com

Product Homepage: http://www.AIDA64.com

Buy It Here

Replacing Everest in our labs is AIDA64. This new testing suite is from the core development team from Lavalys and continues that tradition. The guys have thrown in better support for multithreaded CPUs as well as full 64 bit support. We use this to test memory and HDDs for now, but may find ourselves opening this up to other areas of the motherboard.

Sapphire Pure Platinum Z68 (Intel Z68) Motherboard Review 39 | TweakTown.com

Looking at memory performance, we can see it lines up similar to our other boards here. As usual, though, we see a nice boost in performance to our memory when it comes to overclocking.

Gaming Benchmarks

3DMark 11

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0

Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com

Product Homepage: http://www.3dmark.com/3dmark11/

Buy It Here

3DMark 11 is the latest version of the world's most popular benchmark. Designed to measure your PC's gaming performance 3DMark 11 makes extensive use of all the new features in DirectX 11 including tessellation, compute shaders and multi-threading. Trusted by gamers worldwide to give accurate and unbiased results, 3DMark 11 is the best way to consistently and reliably test DirectX 11 under game-like loads.

Sapphire Pure Platinum Z68 (Intel Z68) Motherboard Review 40 | TweakTown.com

Metro 2033

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark

Developer Homepage: http://www.4a-games.com//

Product Homepage: http://www.thqnordic.com/

Metro 2033 is an action-oriented video game with a combination of survival horror and first-person shooter elements. The game is based on the novel Metro 2033 by Russian author Dmitry Glukhovsky. It was developed by 4A Games in Ukraine and released in March 2010 for Microsoft Windows and Xbox 360.[3] In March 2006, 4A Games announced a partnership with Glukhovsky to collaborate on the game.[4] The game was announced at the 2009 Games Convention in Leipzig;[5] a first trailer came along with the announcement.[6] A sequel was announced, currently titled Metro: Last Light.

Sapphire Pure Platinum Z68 (Intel Z68) Motherboard Review 41 | TweakTown.com

Nothing too out of the ordinary here with a nice boost in performance seen when overclocked. Surprisingly, though, we can see at stock that the Sapphire Pure Platinum Z68 does fall behind our other boards in the Performance preset.

Temperature and Power

Power Draw Tests

Sapphire Pure Platinum Z68 (Intel Z68) Motherboard Review 42 | TweakTown.com

On the power draw front, the numbers don't look bad, and because the overclock wasn't as strong, you can see it manages to sit only a little higher than some of our other boards when running at stock.

Core Temperature

Sapphire Pure Platinum Z68 (Intel Z68) Motherboard Review 43 | TweakTown.com

At idle we can see the temperature is the strongest out of the batch while load lines up like normal. Overclocked, we can see a jump in heat, but again thanks to the fact that the overclock was a little lower, the heat doesn't run as rampant as we see it do sometimes.

Final Thoughts

Final Thoughts

Sapphire continues to take me on an emotional roller coaster when it comes to the motherboard market. The last board we looked at based on the A75 hit the ball out of the park. The Z68 offering we're looking at today was bit of a strike out. Unlike the Jetway HI09-Z, a board that couldn't even run at stock without having its settings adjusted, the Sapphire looks like an absolute Gem.

The problem for the Sapphire is up against boards like the GIGABYTE G1.Sniper2 and ASUS Maximus IV Extreme-Z the Sapphire just can't do anything to be up the realm of these big boys.

Even if you talk about the cost of these boards compared to the Sapphire, the ASRock offerings which come in significantly cheaper are also extremely strong boards and offer us a graphical UEFI interface.

To be completely blunt, this board should've been a lot better than it is considering the time it took to come out compared to others. Sapphire just hasn't been able to get a feel for this segment yet and they're creating these hit and miss boards when it comes to performing outside the realm of stock.

If it runs so good at stock, though, why wouldn't you pick it up over something like GIGABYTE or ASUS? The huge range both these companies have combined with the price point they're able to hit at and just the general brand awareness and confidence associated with them means that you'd be hard pressed to give a good argument to why you would buy the Sapphire over one of them. This is where the problem lies in the market for Sapphire, though.

While we don't have a price at this time, we know that it won't be the cheapest on the market. The lack of any stand out feature that separates them from other companies and when it comes to overclocking potential; it's more limited than other boards.

We have seen flashes of brilliance from them; the X58 was great, as was the A75. The Z68 and P67 leave something to desire, though. They haven't found a hook yet, though, and that's the biggest problem for the company. Why should you buy a Sapphire motherboard? Who knows!?!?

If you walked into a shop and you could only buy the Jetway we looked at, I'd say turn around, walk out the door and go somewhere else. If you walked into a shop and you could only buy the Sapphire, I'd say buy it. Out of the box it's going to run well and sure, there's going to be a bit of head room when it comes to overclocking. But if you walk into a shop and it's selling this Sapphire board along with similarly priced ASRock, MSI, ASUS and GIGABYTE offerings, picking this out of that batch is going to be a tough one.

I feel like Sapphire has got a large part of the engineering side of things down, but the overclock side of things needs to be worked on. There are some things that they can really improve on, though.

- Overclocking via multiplier should be adjusted via one area and not have to be done separately on all four cores.

- A move to a UEFI BIOS that can begin to separate them from other companies needs to start to take place, even if it's just in the most simplistic form like we saw from ASRock initially.

- Current voltage levels displayed in the voltage adjustment area along with a system that displays safe levels. Orange when above normal, Red when it gets too high.

- We need to move away from having so many Legacy PCI slots.

- Flashier looking heatsink design.

That's just a few that come to mind and honestly, if I didn't like Sapphire so much I'd just say, go buy someone else's board and don't worry about these guys. But like I said, we've seen flashes of brilliance from them. No doubt they're capable of creating stand out board over stand out board. It's also no doubt going to continue to take time, though.

What do TweakTown.com awards mean? Click for details!

Last updated: Apr 7, 2020 at 12:30 pm CDT

PRICING: You can find products similar to this one for sale below.

USUnited States: Find other tech and computer products like this over at Amazon.com

UKUnited Kingdom: Find other tech and computer products like this over at Amazon.co.uk

AUAustralia: Find other tech and computer products like this over at Amazon.com.au

CACanada: Find other tech and computer products like this over at Amazon.ca

DEDeutschland: Finde andere Technik- und Computerprodukte wie dieses auf Amazon.de

ABOUT THE AUTHOR -

Shawn takes care of all of our video card reviews. From 2009, Shawn is also taking care of our memory reviews, and from May 2011, Shawn also takes care of our CPU, chipset and motherboard reviews. As of December 2011, Shawn is based out of Taipei, Taiwan.

We openly invite the companies who provide us with review samples / who are mentioned or discussed to express their opinion. If any company representative wishes to respond, we will publish the response here. Please contact us if you wish to respond.

Related Tags